Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza: "Almost didn't make the cut."

I have to admit something: I have never been to Chicago. Which means I have never had Chicago style pizza. I don't even actually know what it is. I've talked for minutes at a time about how much better the New York slice is than a Chicago Pie. "I MAY AS WELL EAT LASAGNA!" I've shouted in bars over Cock Sparrer songs blaring too loud from the soundsystem. But the truth is, I am just good at being a windbag and a blowhard. It's just like all the books I've never read and movies I've never seen that I find myself pretending I have because it seems easier than finding something else to talk about.

Either way, I still KNOW New York pizza is better, even if I've never had the pie in Chi-Town. And that's why I almost didn't even go to Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza on Thames St right around the corner from OWS. Because I review New York slices and I figured they didn't have one. Because why would a regular New York pizza parlor go through all the effort of calling itself Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza if they were just gonna sell regular slices?

Then the comments and emails started coming in. "What about Big Al's?" "When you gonna go to Big Al's" "I'M A COP YOU IDIOT" "Did you skip Big Al's?" And I called Big Al's and I said, "yeah, do you guys sell slices" and I could see the pizzaman's look of disgust and perplexion (I just made this word up!) as he said, "yeah...." but was clearly thinking "who is this moron?"

So I went. And I'm glad I did.

Big Al's definitely gets the "Best Slice Near OWS" award, which is actually something a lot of people have been asking about. This slice has a thin but adequate crust, nice pungent cheese, ample grease and a pretty good sauce. The ratios are spot on. There is just enough salt. And in the words of Mr. Paul Lukas, "everything coheres nicely." This slice is A-Okay. Totally alright. Wildly above average. It was prepared well and I like that.

At one point while we were sitting there, this worker accidentally jostled Paul while mopping up some spilled soda. He apologized, and Paul was like, "it's cool man, what's going on over there?"
And the guy is like, "This lady, she takes one sip of her soda and then just turns it over into the garbage bag. The worst part is, she was looking me right in the eyes when she did it. By the time I got around here with the mop it was running all over the floor."
"People are animals." I interjected. "I work at a diner in Brooklyn. We got this garbage can in the bathroom that has one of those foot pedals to open the top, and every day I clean up piles of sullied paper towels from the top of the lid. From people too lazy to press a fucking button with their foot."
"Animals..." the guy muttered, as he stepped away to continue mopping.

Me and Paul talked a while and then parted ways, but as soon as I walked out the door I had to piss so bad I felt like I was gonna explode, but didn't remember seeing a bathroom in Big Al's. I went back inside, found the guy I'd been talking to, leaned over conspiratorially, "You got a bathroom in this place?" I murmured. He slipped me a key and pointed to a door, "take a left. First door on your right."

I walked out into the corridor of an office tower and quickly found the bathroom. Now, as you know, my second favorite thing besides reviewing pizza is reviewing pizzeria bathrooms. Well this one was a gem!

Easily the most claustrophobic restroom I have ever been inside. I felt like I was in a Kafka courthouse can in here! It's worlds away from the spacious and romantic two-seater at 42nd Street Restaurant, but equally charming, in it's own cramped way. Also, second to the Worcester, MA diner bathroom that was totally clean of graffiti except that someone had written VAN HALAN over two of the walls, this back wall, behind the toilet, vandalized with TOILETS! and an anarchy symbol may be my favorite bathroom graffiti.


Bathroom Rating:

Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza - $2.50
9 Thames St (Trinity & Broadway)
New York, NY 10006


  1. Great post. Read it aloud to my folks. They laughed. Only a few more to go.

    Of course, the sad thing is that Manhattan probably has the crappiest pizza in the city. You're giving up just as the eating was about to get good.

    Keep writing, though.

  2. Well, the ideal New York pizza is better than Chicago, but as you know there is so much bad pizza here. . . . Interesting, I would like to know what the ratio of bad to good is there.

    Now of course, New Haven pizza tops them both.

  3. Just FYI, sometimes people will use a paper towel to open bathroom doors. If the trash can isn't right next to the door, they'll throw it back in the direction of the trash can, and if it has a lid on it, too bad. Oh, and not everybody shoots like Kobe. If this is your situation, save yourself some time and move the trash can, or get a second one.

  4. Just FYI, sometimes a person that looks like an adult is actually a big huge baby who doesn't know how to behave like a civilized grown up. Oh, and also some people are weird germophobes who perpetuate their own stupid neuroses by making public spaces grosser than they have to be. If this is your situation, save yourself the trouble and just carry some fucking hand sanitizer you giant toddler, or stop using public bathrooms.

  5. Pizza made at this restaurant is delicious and very tasty